The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Metropolitan life

I visited several boutique hotels in various Manhattan neighborhoods and asked to be shown rooms that can be readily booked for less than $250 night. Many are known for offering above-average amenities at bargain prices, so it's best to reserve far ahead of your stay.

— Shawna Van Ness

The standouts

414 Inn414 W. 46th St.; (212) 399-0006,

Rates: $169-$199

Amenities: Chic rooms look like something out of a photo shoot for a home magazine. All have flat-screen TVs, luxury bedding and large bathrooms with Lanovera toiletries. Free wireless Internet access in all 22 guest rooms, the lobby and a striking outdoor brick courtyard, lined with bistro tables and potted flowers.

Chelsea Lodge Suites

318 W. 20th St.; (212) 243-4499, Rates: $195

Amenities: It's as if you are living in a studio apartment in Manhattan. The four suites in this hotel have queen beds and pullout sofas. Kitchenettes feature compact ovens, sinks and refrigerators. Guests have their own phone number, wireless Internet service at no extra charge and access to a semi-private garden or street-side view of this trendy Chelsea neighborhood. Suites have private baths, hardwood floors and air-conditioning. May be subject to a minimum two-night stay.

The Mayfair New York242 W. 49th St.; (800) 556-2932,

Rates: $130-$310 for a room with one bed.

Amenities: The atmosphere here is classy old New York. The lobby has dark mahogany wood accents and cozy seating areas surrounding a piano. Rooms are small but distinctive — the one we were shown had blue-and-white toile wallpaper, new down bedding, a personal safe and a nice black-and-white tiled bathroom with a shower-tub. Close to Times Square, restaurants, subway and other attractions.

Hotel Bedford118 E. 40th St.; (800) 221-6881,

Rates: $160-$235 for a standard room

Amenities: This quiet Murray Hill hotel is in the middle of a major renovation. It is within walking distance of Grand Central Station, Fifth Avenue and the Empire State Building. Rooms here are larger than average, and four floors are completed with new furniture, bedding and carpeting. The lobby is decorated with a crystal chandelier and plush burgundy and gold sofas and chairs. Hint: When booking, ask for a room on a floor that has been fully remodeled. May be subject to a two-night minimum for weekend stays.

Cosmopolitan Hotel Tribeca95 W. Broadway at Chambers Street; (888) 895-9400, Rates: $175 and up for a standard room

Amenities: The main attraction here is the trendy neighborhood, but the rooms are nice too. The lobby and hallways have been renovated within the last three months. The room shown had nearly new bedding and wallpaper and a clean bathroom (minus fancy toiletries). Two large windows offer good views of the street.

The safe standbys

Milburn242 W. 76th St., between West End Avenue and Broadway; (212) 362-1006,

Rates: $219 for a standard room.

Amenities: On a quiet street on the Upper West Side, this hotel is within easy walking distance of Central Park and several museums. All rooms have air conditioning, free wireless Internet access and a kitchenette with a fridge, sink, microwave and coffee maker. The hotel's lobby and exercise room are under renovation, which should be completed by December. Some rooms will get face-lifts early next year.

Hotel Stanford43 W. 32nd St.; (800) 365-1114,

Rates: From $169

Amenities: In the heart of Koreatown near Herald Square, the Hotel Stanford offers rooms with plenty of space, tasteful décor and updated bathrooms. There isn't a lot of character here, unless you count the easy access from the lobby to a Korean bakery and Asian restaurant. The hotel charges a fee for wireless Internet access and late checkout, but it does offer guests free continental breakfast daily.

Hotel St. James109 W. 45th St., between 6th and 7th avenues; (212) 730-9444, Rates: $199-$259 for a standard room

Amenities: A good choice for those who want the convenience of Midtown shopping, subways and attractions without the noise and nuisance of Times Square. Although the friendly staff says the rooms are being remodeled, both rooms we were shown were average. The bedding, furniture and bathrooms were clean but basic.

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